Where is that Medical Mart that is Costing Us $40 million a year?

Submitted by Roldo on Tue, 06/24/2008 - 10:56.

It’s been quiet on the medical mart & convention center front of late. However, no news may not be good news.

Wonder why it’s so quiet since the Cuyahoga County Commission voted (privately) to pass a $40 million a year tax to go, go, go.

Maybe it has to do with the lousy general economic climate and the even less appetizing Northern Ohio business situation.

Maybe with the ballooning cost of gasoline that makes travel so expensive.

Maybe with the fact that airlines are cutting back and then cutting back more on service.

Does all this mean that new convention centers – already a very competitive and money-losing industry – will be experiencing an even worse economic climate for development?

Maybe the stall isn’t really a stall but another situation where our County Commission has gotten us into a losing situation and they don’t know the way out of the thicket.

We’re in the dark again with Tim Hagan, Jimmy Dimora and Peter Lawson Jones.

The lack of progress on the now nearly decade-long attempt to get the public to go for a new convention center seems ominous to me, especially as economic conditions worsen.

So I e-mailed Heywood Sanders, professor of Urban Studies in the Dept. of Political Science at Trinity University at San Antonio and a long-time student of issues involving convention centers. I wanted to find out his current outlook on new convention centers, and particularly Cleveland’s situation.

“The prognosis looks grim,” writes Sanders as he notes that a number of major urban development projects – naming Ballpark Village in St. Louis, Grand Avenue in Los Angeles and Atlantic Yards (Forest City project) in Brooklyn – “are being scaled back or halted.”

As to the effect of airline costs, Heywood says, “The airline issues go well beyond ticket costs. Cutbacks in flights and air service mean plans are not more fully booked, service less frequent and convenient, disruptions and uncertainties greater.”

“A doctor may not be put off by a $100 increase in price (of airline ticket) but he or she might well find that a meeting trip requires losing an extra day or two,” he writes.

“Add that all together with a convention market that remains overbuilt, with a number of cities trying to bail out their centers with publicly-financed large hotels (mentioning Portland, Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas, Kansas City and our Columbus),” and the outlook, as he says, is “grim.”

Sanders concludes, “Frankly, I never thought the Medical Mart was a workable deal. I don’t think MMPI (Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.) is in any rush to do it now.  And if the county moves ahead on its own, well…”

Well, indeed.

Cuyahoga County taxpayers had better begin sending Hagan and his colleagues a message about going forth with a billion dollar white elephant with a tax that they assessed without a vote of the public. And Lawson Jones' Republican opponent apparently is just as captive on the convention center.

“Public? We don’t need no stink'n public. They elected us to do whatever we want,” is the Commission's attitude.

The public needs to speak up as the County collects some $40 million a year - dumped into its general fund - for the proposed medical mart and convention center. To say nothing of the subsidies that will be needed to then “finish the job” with publicly-financed parking garages and, of course, a costly, heavily-financed luxury hotel.

Taxpayers, eat dirt.

The citizens of Cuyahoga County have no one but themselves to blame for the atrociously bad governing Commission they’ve allowed to govern for far too long.

By the way, the Plain Dealer’s great reform game on County government doesn’t much mention the big mistake of a $1 billion dollar convention debacle.

The PD’s reform movement stalls when it comes to really helping the taxpayer over the developers.

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Excellent updated analysis of MedCon by Roldo

This is very breakthrough analysis of the MedCon, here in the NEO investigative void. About a year ago I started focusing my economic analysis and development planning on a model based on the reality of global warming and related environmental calamity... one reason I have a "buy" attitude about NEO. You surface an excellent example of how we must think in these changing times - real time adjustments must be made for changes in cost of fuel, etc. I don't see other people around here asking these right questions and planning based on realistic future expectations.

I am certain you are the first to expose the fact that,

Sanders concludes, “Frankly, I never thought the Medical Mart was a workable deal. I don’t think MMPI (Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.) is in any rush to do it now.  And if the county moves ahead on its own, well…”

Good thinking and reporting, Roldo!

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Urban Boondoggles

Here in the Phoenix metro area the number of projects that our local authorities are engaged in is depressing. I think the matro area has a new football stadium, a large outdoor college stadium that used to house an NFL team, a basketball stadium, a baseball stadium, and a 40 year old "colliseum that is run down and mostly unused despite being able to house most of the other teams.

We think the ancient Romans were primitive with their bread and circuses and yet we engage in the same.

What about sustainability of Phoenix?

No disrespect intended - I love Phoenix and Scottsdale and the deserts and beauty around there, but how is all that going to survive in eras of high energy costs, perhaps real energy shortages, and probably impacts of global warming, water shortages, rising temperatures, etc... do people in Pheonix worry about all that and where do they talk about it? I worry about it for you way over here in the Independent Green Republic of East Cleveland.

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